Pat Lam has a backs injury crisis on his hands as Connacht put their Champions Cup quarter-final hopes on the line against Wasps at the Sportsground next Saturday.
Confirmation that Marnitz Boshoff is out for three months has compounded the situation at out-half with Jack Carty the only recognised No.10 left standing.
Craig Ronaldson is sidelined until mid-January with a thigh injury while Shane O’Leary, who came off the bench in the Pro12 final win over Leinster, remains out with concussion.
Carty is also the only established place-kicker available to Lam as they plot a revenge mission against Wasps, with back-up scrum-half John Cooney, who has been accurate off the tee this season, also unlikely to be available because of a quad injury.
Time does not allow Connacht to draft in a replacement signing for this week but Lam said the finance is not there to consider bringing in a medical joker to cover the key games in the defence of their Pro12 title or the January Champions matches at home to Zebre and away to Toulouse.
“There is no medical joker because you have got budgets. You need money, we don’t have money to do that so we just have to work out what we can do. All the players who are injured, they still have to get paid. Jack is the last out-half still standing. We will look at options but we just to need to do a job this week and get on with it.” It’s far from ideal as Connacht bid to reverse Sunday’s 32-17 loss in the Ricoh Arena but hopes are high that both Bundee Aki (thigh) and Tiernan O’Halloran (hip) will recover from knocks picked up in that match. However, winger Cian Kelleher is out for four weeks with a hamstring injury, while centre Stacey Ili is unlikely to be available because of an ankle problem.
Flanker Jake Heenan is also unlikely to feature after picking up knee and ankle injuries in the loss to Wasps.
Lam admitted it is not an ideal situation but he has always challenged the next player to step forward and produce a big display.
“We are down on numbers. That’s what I wanted, I wanted competition and have the opportunity because we go six-day turnaround, six-day turnaround to Ulster. And then a seven-day turnaround to Munster and then Ospreys.
“Big games and we need as many on deck as we can. It is what it is and that’s the adversity that you face and the challenge and we just have to face it and we will.”
Last year several players stepped forward from Nigel Carolan’s academy to fill gaps as Connacht went on their march to Pro12 glory but Lam said the injuries to Boshoff, Ronaldson and O’Leary meant the cupboard was now bare in terms of back-up to Carty.
“None in the academy, the academy don’t have one. That’s Nigel’s remit, to find us a 10. We have got young Luke Carty, Jack’s brother in the sub-academy, but he is just out of school,” added Lam.
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